When procrastination can be a real problem

Almost all of us procrastinate at times. In many cases that might result in some stress and minor inconvenience, but not any major problems. But here’s one situation where I’d suggest you try to avoid procrastinating: getting medical care when needed.

This was brought home to me when a dear friend (who tends to put off seeing her doctors) had some problems that put her in the hospital. If she had waited one more day to seek care, she might well have died. Fortunately, she’s fine now.

And I made my own mistake in this regard, too. When I had some leg pain last year, my doctor said it might be tight muscles (treated with physical therapy) or it might be a hip problem (diagnosed with an X-ray). But I delayed getting the X-ray — and sure enough, it was a hip problem. I’m now scheduled for hip replacement surgery, but I could have avoided months of pain by getting the X-ray sooner, especially when physical therapy didn’t seem to help.

Preventive care, including diagnostic tests, are also important. Janine Adams recently wrote about how she put off having her first colonoscopy for 2 1/2 years. She wrote about why she procrastinated and how good it felt to finally have the test done:

Why was I dragging my feet? Partly because of the horrible things you hear about the prep. … But, in truth, there was also a certain amount of fear that there would be bad news. Irrational, but true. Because of course, if I did have colon cancer, it was better to know than not know. …

Well, it turned out that the prep wasn’t all that bad. Not fun, but not tortuous. And the procedure itself was nothing, because I slept through the whole thing. When it was over the news was good — and immediate. Everything normal. Come back in ten years.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that behind me. I didn’t realize the psychic energy I was expending avoiding it.

I’ve known people who procrastinate about going to the dentist, too. That might be because they aren’t aware of any problem, but gum disease can be pretty symptom-free until it’s progressed enough to be serious. People might also fear the pain, but my own experience tells me if I have regular cleanings it’s much less of an issue than if I wait too long. Even procedures like root canals sound worse than they feel, at least for me, since they are done with anesthesia. And I’m a wimp about pain.

I know that sometimes there are financial concerns regarding medical care, and I certainly respect any choices you need to make in such a situation. But if there are no financial constraints (and you can find care providers with evening or weekend hours, if need be), please don’t procrastinate on getting the care you need.

7 Comments for “When procrastination can be a real problem”

  1. posted by Stalyn on

    Is all about getting one priorities straight from the get go if you ask me.

  2. posted by Carla on

    It’s like you are reading my mind…

    I have a lot of anxiety about going to the doctor/dentist. So I put it off as long as I can get away with it (possibly years). But putting it off leads to its own anxiety…

  3. posted by Isihia Flemington on

    It is natural for us to procrastinate, and in many cases Jery is right – it may lead to worsening the problem and more serious consequences, all the while, as Janine says acting on time can be a relive. But there are those rare occasions, when not knowing is better than knowing. My mother’s story is such. After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, undergoing breast removal, chimo and other therapies, it turned out that because of the chemicals used she had two brain aneurysms and lost her vision in one eye almost entirely, since the aneurysm are pushing her ocular nerves. Because of the aneurysm’s placement an operation would be too risky and now the uncertainty of weather she is going to loose her other’s eyesight is killing her. And there is nothing to be done.

  4. posted by Debbie on

    I too was putting off my colonoscopy for about the same amount of time. I finally got the nerve to do it because a close friend of mine put hers off and she has colon cancer. Mine came back fine but a prayer would be appreciated for my friend as she battles on with strength and courage! Thank you!

  5. posted by jo baldwin on

    It’s okay for me to procrastinate because my patron saint is St. Procrastinacious. You know, some actually believe me.

  6. posted by Kathy on

    I heartily second this! I’ve procrastinated about medical care, too, sometimes with bad consequences. I delayed scheduling my first colonoscopy for several years; I finally had it last year, and it was much easier than I expected. The prep is apparently much easier than it was a few years ago (the nurse told me this). My clinic had me follow a fiber-free diet for a few days beforehand, eating meat and cooked vegetables only. This makes it much easier to clean out the system, apparently.

    I avoided going to the dentist for over a decade, going in finally when I got a toothache. This cost me two teeth, eventually, and thousands of dollars for root canals and implants. In my case, it was because of dental anxiety. I always had pain when my previous dentist worked on my teeth. My first root canal was actually the most pleasant dental experience I’d ever had, because the endodontist gave me enough local anesthetic. I soon changed to a new dentist, and over several years got over my dental anxiety, because I was no longer having pain. Now I make my next appointment before I leave, so I’m not tempted to put it off, and I’ve had only one cavity in about ten years. Prevention pays!

  7. posted by Anne on

    Some of us avoid medical care because even the mildest exposure to drugs causes severe reactions. I agree about dental care but I do not undergo most of the preventive care currently recommended because the chances of a severe reaction to the necessary substances is likely to do greater harm than the small chance I might have something I’m not at high risk of. I take care of my health myself. I do seek prompt attention when something is clearly wrong. For me the risks outweigh the benefits.

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